‘One Under’ review

Theatre, Fringe
3 out of 5 stars
One Under, Arcola Theatre 2019
Photograph: Patrick Baldwin

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Revival of Winsome Pinnock’s fiddly but fascinating play about the aftermath of a young black man’s mysterious suicide

Winsome Pinnock’s ‘One Under’ is a slippery little play. Reimagined by the author after it originally premiered in 2005, it pieces together a mosaic of fragmented lives in the aftermath of a suicide on the tube tracks. 

Sonny (Reece Pantry) is the adopted son of Nella (Shenagh Govan) and, very briefly, the charming boyfriend of local laundrette worker Christine (Clare-Louise English). He sweeps Christine off her feet with apparently harmless tales of gangsters, minders and wads of fifty-pound notes. But there’s an entirely different side to Sonny that no one close to him knows about. So when Cyrus (Stanley J Browne), the tube driver who hits him, becomes absolutely obsessed with finding out why Sonny jumped, his task is basically impossible. 

At its best, Pinnock’s revised story is a clever depiction of grief, regret and how we can never really know what’s going on in someone else’s head. Yet at the same time, the author drops some brilliantly insightful hints about Sonny’s experience of life. In particular, when a young black man speaks of always being watched, is that ‘paranoia’ or simply the awful truth? The spy thriller characters Sonny talks about might not be real, but the experience of being followed around a shop for no reason is.

Amit Sharma’s production makes use of a strong cast – Evlyne Oyedokun is great as Sonny’s wrung-out sister frantically trying to play mum to the woman who raised her – and the whole thing is often very watchable. It also includes a neat bit of set design where the fateful train tracks are echoed in pieces of multi-purpose Ikea-like home furniture and the platform announcement boards double as captioning screens. 

But despite being so crammed with interesting ideas and concepts, a lot of unnatural dialogue and clunky shifts in time and place means it’s never as good as it should be. It is, however, one of those plays that wedges itself like a tiny Rubik’s Cube in your thoughts, turning itself over and over in different formations. 

By: Rosemary Waugh

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